Uncertainty as travel stores face axe

THOMSON tour holiday operator TUI Travel has announced plans to close 100 of its UK-based travel stores. The restructuring comes six months after the company's creation from the merger of TUI's travel division and First Choice, with the closure plans representing nearly a tenth of the businesses' UK travel shops.

THOMSON tour holiday operator TUI Travel has announced plans to close 100 of its UK-based travel stores.

The restructuring comes six months after the company's creation from the merger of TUI's travel division and First Choice, with the closure plans representing nearly a tenth of the businesses' UK travel shops.

The new business, which has 1,100 shops, has not said how many jobs will be affected by the closure move, which is part of an additional £50 million of cost savings announced by TUI Travel yesterday .

A spokesperson said: “We are still reviewing the portfolio. No decisions have been taken on which shops will be closed.”


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Thomson travel shops in this area include branches at Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Felixstowe, Colchester, Haverhill, Braintree, Chelmsford and Clacton-on-Sea, while First Choice shops include ones at Bury, Newmarket, Ipswich, Mildenhall, Colchester and Chelmsford.

The merger between First Choice and German-owned TUI created Europe's biggest travel group with 48,000 staff and 27 million customers.

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Thomson has been the biggest UK tour operator since 1974. Its holiday airline - formerly Britannia Airways - is now Coventry-based Thomsonfly.

Formerly called Owners Abroad, First Choice has its headquarters at Crawley in West Sussex. Its airline was formerly called Air 2000 and is now First Choice Airways.

Thomson holiday brands include Simply Travel, Headwater Holidays, Crystal Holidays, Thomson Ski and Snowboarding, Thomson Lakes and Mountains, and Jetsave.

First Choice's brands include Sovereign, which has had a number of owners over the package holiday era and is one of the best-known names in the travel business.

The cuts announced yesterday follow a 100-day review led by chief executive Peter Long, who previously ran the First Choice business.

TUI said at the time of the merger that it was committed to building up internet sales and saving £100 million a year through costs and streamlining its retail shop operation.

This figure was increased to £150 million a year today, with £40 million of the increase relating to the UK.

The company said further cost savings had been identified in its airline network as well as in general administrative costs, although it did not give details about any impact on jobs.

Yesterday's closure plan is the latest to hit the travel industry following Thomas Cook's announcement last June that it would cut around 2,800 jobs by the middle of this year. The restructuring included the closure of 150 shops and six offices, following the firm's £8 billion tie-up with former Airtours business MyTravel.

Gerry Doherty, general secretary of the TSSA travel union, warned that the closures could cost up to 1,000 jobs and result in less competition on the high street.

He said: “We warned last year that this merger would mean less choice for consumers and job losses for our members. Sadly this has come to pass.

“We are seeking urgent talks with the company today but, given the number of shops and the offices facing closure in Crawley and Manchester, we could be looking at up to 1,000 staff losing their jobs.

“Britain's high street is now dominated by just two travel giants - TUI and Thomas Cook. We fear more closures as the two firms maximise profits and pressure intensifies from internet holiday bookings.”

Tom Condon of TSSA said: “They won't tell us where the shops are. All we know is 100 are going to close across the country. We don't know where.”

Meanwhile, TUI Travel said current trading remained encouraging with strong consumer demand across all its markets.

TUI said UK mainstream sales for this winter were up 3%, with 16% fewer holidays left to sell than last year. Sales for this summer are currently 8% higher with 18% left to sell.

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